Antibiotic resistance and infectious diseases such as zika, bird flu and Q fever are having an increasingly large impact on humans and animals, particularly in a densely populated country like the Netherlands. Experts in the areas of human and animal health at Utrecht University, University Medical Center Utrecht, Wageningen UR, Erasmus MC and the Academic Medical Center Amsterdam are therefore joining forces in a new virtual research centre. Edith Schippers, Dutch Minister of Health, Welfare and Sports, has opened this Netherlands Centre for One Health (NCOH) on 4 February.
“The establishment of the Netherlands Centre for One Health – a world first – demonstrates that we can consolidate our strengths in human health, in animal health, and in the environment. It is a major and important step”, says Minister Schippers.
Although Dutch doctors and veterinarians have become increasingly reticent in their use of antibiotics in recent years, this is not yet the case in many European countries. For this reason, Minister Schippers wants to put the subject of antibiotic resistance on the European agenda during the Dutch presidency of the EU.
Research into humans and animals
The NCOH is bringing together knowledge in the areas of human and animal health. Leading scientists are setting up joint projects in order to control and prevent the threatening resistance problem. Different cattle feed, research into new medicines, treatment methods and methods to prevent spreading are some of the themes being addressed. This is the first time that medical, veterinary and environmental researchers are cooperating together this closely, and with the full support of the Dutch top sectors of Life Sciences & Health and Agri & Food.
The centre’s base is prevention: Don’t wait until a problem arises, but prevent problems from occurring. “By combining all scientific knowledge we are able to make breakthroughs faster in the field of emerging infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance, " says Anton Pijpers, one of the initiators of the NCOH. "An example is the development of new vaccines, new antibiotics or alternatives."
The concept of One Health stands for promoting the health of people, animals and the environment by carrying out coherent research within these fields. Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance is one of the four areas of focus of the new virtual institute. One Health will also be carrying out research into Smart & Healthy Farming, Healthy Wildlife & Ecosystems and Emerging Disease Preparedness, thus controlling new infectious diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans. The latter theme is a topical issue. At the end of January, it became clear that the Netherlands already has its first patients suffering from the zika virus. In recent years, there have already been outbreaks of bird flu, Mers, Ebola, Sars and Q fever around the world.
The theme of One Health is particularly important in a densely populated country like the Netherlands. Seventeen million people live closely on a small piece of land, together with 120 million animals. Infectious diseases that arise elsewhere in the world can easily travel to the Netherlands. And vice versa. Prevention of and combating infectious diseases are a global need, and that can only take place by combining knowledge and expertise.
The Netherlands Centre for One Health (NCOH) brings together five leading academic institutes, together with other leading parties. This will create an open innovation network which can respond to One Health opportunities and risks. The NCOH carries out multidisciplinary and multisectoral research and develops knowledge in the areas of bioscience, medicine, veterinary medicine, animal science and environmental science. The NCOH is building bridges between academic and research institutes, the government and NGOs, and is open to cooperation with industrial partners. In the NCOH, researchers from the Utrecht University, Wageningen UR, University Medical Center Utrecht, Erasmus MC in Rotterdam and the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam work together under the motto: ‘Solutions to Global One Health Challenges’